Your Rights

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone in New Zealand because of their sexual orientation or sex/gender identity within areas of life covered by the Human Rights Act 1993. These include applying for a job, at work, in education and health care in government agencies’ policies and practice and when you buy things or pay for services.

The Yogyakarta Principles

The Yogyakarta Principles set out the international human rights standards that all countries must meet to uphold the human rights of sexual and gender minorities. They state that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the same rights and freedoms. All sexual and gender minorities in New Zealand have these human rights, whichever word they use to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Human rights in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity include, for example, the rights to:

  • be freed from discrimination
  • be recognised as a person before the law
  • life, liberty and security of the person
  • freedom from arbitrary detention and to a fair trial
  • an adequate standard of living, including decent work and housing
  • education
  • health and protection from medical abuses •found a family •participate in public life and in cultural life
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of association and peaceful assembly
  • freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Anti-discrimination provisions in all major international human rights treaties spell out specific grounds on which discrimination is prohibited. The principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation had become “one that is firmly grounded in international standards, requiring not only the repeal of discriminatory criminal laws but also the adoption of proactive anti-discrimination measures”.

 New Zealand laws that relate to sexual and gender minorities 

  • Human Rights Act 1993 - It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone in New Zealand because of their sexual orientation or sex/gender identity. These include applying for a job, at work, in education and health care, in government agencies’ policies and practice, and when you buy things or pay for services.
  • the Property (Relationships) Amendment Act 2001, which generally gives same-sex and de facto heterosexual couples the same property rights and obligations as married couples on the breakdown of a relationship
  • the Administration Act 2001, which gives same-sex partners access to the same rights and entitlements as married partners in relation to the estate of a deceased partner who has not left a will
  • the Family Protection Amendment Act 2001, which provides same-sex partners with rights and legal standing to make a claim against a deceased partner’s estate
  • the Family Proceedings Amendment Act (No 2) 2013, which extended maintenance provisions after a relationship ends to cover civil union and de facto couples
  • the Status of Children Act 2004, which gives the same-sex partner of a birth mother the same legal parental status as an opposite-sex partner when an assisted human-reproduction procedure has been used to conceive a child and that partner has consented to the procedure.
  • same-sex partners being accorded the same legal protections as heterosexual partners under the Domestic Violence Act 1995
  • the Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2005, which amended a number of laws to remove provisions that discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation.
  • the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 allows for same-sex marriage by clarifying that a marriage is between 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Five core legal obligation of states with respect to protecting the human rights of LGBT persons

  1. Protect people from homophobic and transphobic violence. Include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in hate crime laws. Establish effective systems to record and report hate-motivated acts of violence. Ensure effective investigation and prosecution of perpetrators and redress for victims of such violence. Asylum laws and policies should recognize that persecution on account of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity may be a valid basis for an asylum claim.

  2. Prevent the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of LGBT persons in detention by prohibiting and punishing such acts and ensuring that victims are provided with redress. Investigate all acts of mistreatment by State agents and bring those responsible to justice. Provide appropriate training to law enforcement officers and ensure effective monitoring of places of detention.

  3. Repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality, including all laws that prohibit private sexual conduct between consenting adults of the same sex. Ensure that individuals are not arrested or detained on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and are not subjected to baseless and degrading physical examinations intended to determine their sexual orientation.

  4. Prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Enact comprehensive laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination. In particular, ensure non-discriminatory access to basic services, including in the context of employment and health care. Provide education and training to prevent discrimination and stigmatization of LGBT and intersex people.

  5. Safeguard freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly for LGBT and intersex people. Any limitations on these rights must be compatible with international law and must not be discriminatory. Protect individuals who exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and freedom of assembly from acts of violence and intimidation by private parties.